If you’re anything like me, you start thinking about Christmas food in, oh I don’t know, September. By November you’re bookmarking more recipes than you could ever cook or bake in the one-week period that is Christmas. And by now, a week or so before C-Day, you’re up to your eyeballs in lists. There’s the big supermarket shopping list. The food list for those smaller, independent shops. The list of things to make and freeze ahead (for me, bagels for Christmas morning, and an enriched walnut and chocolate bread for Boxing Day breakfast). You may even have a list of steps and timings to cook your Christmas dinner to perfection (I used to do this, but I gave up when I finally realised that, after one glass of bubbly on Christmas morning, the list always went out the window).
Even if you’re nothing like me and the above paragraph made you feel panicky or sorry for my mental state, I bet you care about Christmas food. From the first joyous mince pie of the year to how soon to open the tub of Quality Street, food – for most of us – is synonymous with Christmas.
So when someone – and by someone, I mean a vegan or vegetarian – comes along and threatens your Christmas food plans, all is not calm and bright. What on earth are you going to feed them? What do they even eat at Christmas? Like a slightly scary Christmas fairy (picture the testicle-punching fairy from Scrooged), I’m here to blow some glitter-encrusted inspiration at your eyeballs. (Ew.)
The main meal
Let me start by stating the bleeding obvious: we vegans can already eat most of a traditional roast dinner. Give me a plate of roast potatoes (the best bit of any roast), maple roasted parsnips, carrot and swede mash, slow-cooked cabbage, with my own little jug of veggie gravy and I’m in heaven (you can buy veggie gravy granules if you don’t want to attempt it from scratch). No need to do any special meat alternative on my account. But if you do happen to bung some veggie sausages or plant balls on the side, I’ll love you forever.
It’s as easy as that to feed a vegetarian or vegan on Christmas Day. When I’m visiting home and my mum cooks a roast dinner for the family, that’s what she does for me – all the usual spuds and vegetables, my own jug of veggie gravy and some veggie sausages or plant balls. (That said, you may need to tweak how you cook the meal, like roasting potatoes in oil instead of goose fat, and using margarine or dairy-free butter in any mashed vegetables.)
But if you do want to push the boat out and make a special dish for your plant-munching loved one, I recommend one of the following:
- Beetroot and squash wellingtons with kale pesto (BBC Good Food recipe) – take it from me, these are tasty, easy, and they reheat well, so you can make them ahead of time. The recipe says you can even freeze the wellingtons, but I’ve never done that.
- Jamie Oliver’s m’hanncha – this Moroccan filo snake pie, filled with grains and veg is delicious and looks very much like you’ve Made An Effort. (Which you have.) It’s not difficult, but I’d say it’s slightly more involved than the wellingtons above. Highly recommended, though.
- Ottolenghi’s cauliflower cheese filo pie (pictured) – I’ve mentioned this recipe before, but I’ll mention it again. I’ll probably never stop mentioning it. It’s that good. The recipe is for a ‘curried’ cauliflower cheese pie, so I’d leave out the curry powder if you’re making this as part of a Christmas dinner. Up to you, though. And you will have to do some veganising here – basically, just replace the butter, milk and cheese in the recipe with dairy-free alternatives.
I’m realising now that all of these suggestions are for things-in-pastry. But I make no apologies because pastry is Christmas. Christmas is pastry. And I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
Christmas pudding, dessert and mince pies
Every year my mum used to buy me an apple and cider Christmas pudding from Georgie Porgie’s Puddings, purveyors of possibly the world’s best Christmas puddings. And then I went vegan and … she still buys it for me every year because it’s accidentally (or maybe on purpose) vegan. (I transport the pudding back to Bulgaria in my suitcase, carefully wrapped like the precious cargo it is.) The moral of the story is some puddings will be vegan anyway, so if you normally buy a Christmas pudding, just shop around to find one that your guests can eat.
I’ve also found that some normal supermarket mince pies (not the free-from ones, although they’re fine too) are accidentally vegan. Basically, we’re talking cheapo mince pies without ‘all-butter’ pastry. They may not be explicitly labelled as vegan, so do check the ingredients – milk, butter and eggs are allergens so they’ll be listed in bold, which makes your life easy. Personally, I’m fine with cheapo mince pies, although, as I say, the ‘free-from’ deliberately vegan ones are also good. I’ve never met a mince pie I didn’t like.
For the cream alternative, there are plenty of decent dairy-free creams and ice creams, but I like coconut cream myself. Just a few spoonfuls from the top of a can of coconut milk that’s been chilled in the fridge. Heaven.
And if you want to make a dessert, may I recommend a very working class and not-at-all-fancy trifle? It’s surprisingly easy to veganise, and so generous and delicious, it’ll feed the whole family. You need a bog-standard vegan sponge cake for the base layer (hit me up if you want to know which recipe I use), some jarred fruit (cherries, raspberries, or strawberries) and a slosh of alcohol over the cake, vegetarian jelly (always jelly in my trifle), powdered custard made with oat or soya milk, then coconut cream (again, from a chilled can of coconut milk) as the topping. Finish with some toasted flaked almonds or finely slivered dark chocolate. Sure, I could make a fancier trifle, but Rob wouldn’t let me even if I wanted to. This is the trifle he demands each Christmas. He has, on occasion, demanded it again for his birthday in January.
I’ve also got my eye on some other dessert recipes to try over the Christmas period. I’ve not made them yet, so this isn’t exactly a recommendation, but they certainly look tempting and have been on my Vegan Radar (Vadar?) for a while:
- This classic cherry Bakewell tart by BOSH!
- The Happy Pear’s 5-ingredient chocolate salted caramel tart
While I’m at it, shout out for the Happy Pear vegan banoffee pie recipe, which is nothing to do with Christmas but I’ve made it multiple times and it’s divine. (Full disclosure, though, I replace the healthier cashews in the base layer with a packet of Biscoff biscuits, because I’m filthy.)
My gift to you: How to make vegan sausage rolls
Homemade sausage rolls are the highlight of my Christmas snacking regime. The. Highlight. We make them slightly different each year, so this isn’t a recipe as such, but it’s easy to follow and you can adapt as much as you like:
- Defrost a sheet or two of puff pastry. Most puff pastry – if it’s not ‘all-butter’ pastry – is accidentally vegan. Just check the ingredients. I’d do two sheets and make tons of sausage rolls if I were you (these will delight vegans and meat-eaters alike).
- Finely chop three or four red onions and fry (gently) in oil until caramelised. This will take a good 25 minutes or so, but it’s worth it. Leave to cool a bit.
- Take a packet (or two) of veggie sausages and mash them up in a big bowl. We make our own veggie sausages at home, but if you’re in the UK, the Richmond plant-based sausages are good.
- Add a handful or two of breadcrumbs to the bowl, along with your cooked onions, and mix to combine.
- Now you can go to town on your other flavourings. I like to add chopped garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, some sage, maybe a spoonful or two of cranberry sauce, and a handful of grated vegan cheese (smoked cheese is awesome here). I also strongly recommend you stir in a spoonful of Marmite (don’t question it, just do it). You may not need extra salt by this point, but certainly pepper.
- Depending on the size of your pastry sheet(s), and how big you want your sausage rolls to be, cut each pastry sheet into two or three long strips, roughly 12 cm wide. (Do this on a floured surface, by the way.) Spoon and pat and firm your sausage mixture down the middle of each strip of pastry, so you have two exposed sides of pastry either side of the sausage mixture. Then egg wash (but vegan, see below*) one of those exposed sides of pastry. Tightly roll the un-egg-washed side over the sausage mixture and on top of the egg-washed side and press to close and stick it together. (I’m not explaining this very well, but you know what a sausage roll should look like.)
- You now have a very long and thin sausage roll, which you cut into bitesize pieces. (I like them small, roughly 3 cm, but you do you.) Spread the pieces out on a lined baking sheet, give each one a coat of egg wash and cut a neat little slit or two into each top. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until they’re golden and cooked through.
*To make a vegan egg wash, just fill a little glass with oat or soya milk, add a tiny sprinkle of turmeric (just enough for a slight colour), and a splash of maple syrup. Brush this on and it’ll give your sausage rolls a lovely golden finish.
I hope this helps you feed your designated vegan or vegetarian this Christmas. And if you’re that vegan or vegetarian at the Christmas table, why not make one of the above to contribute to the meal? That’s what we did last Marchmas (Christmas in March, with Rob’s folks) – we made the cauliflower cheese filo pie as our vegan centrepiece, and it was big enough for everyone to have a wedge. And they did. Sharing is caring, and all that. Or is it caring is sharing? Anyway, merry feasting to all and to all a good feast.